Berries in the Uppermost Bough
I once knew someone who enjoyed the Christmas and New Year holidays in the traditions of many Americans – Christmas music, lots of food, plenty of drinks, gift exchanges, parties and family gatherings. He’s been gone a long time, but I remember him. He came into the holidays with plenty of zest and intent and with more energy than most. But there was more to this time of the year for him than first met the eye. Inevitably, the holiday dose wasn’t strong enough for his pain. In fact, the pleasure and ache were intertwined, because he dearly missed his loved ones and the joyous holidays they once shared. His passion for the moment would eventually wilt with memories of the past. I witnessed it up close, but am not sure I understood it well. That was ages ago.
“We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.
We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.
And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From The Meeting
When the Griswold family gathered at Clark’s dining room table the Christmas of 1989, Aunt Bethany remembered Grace, even though she had been gone for thirty years. That’s good with me. Grace would be pleased.